You cannot reason with a tiger when your head is in its mouth.
In Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman takes on the role of Winston Churchill; only a true titan could play a true titan and Oldman is up to the task. Oldman nails the mannerisms, the walk, the scowl, the cigar, the voice, but he also goes deeper to get at something about the soul of the icon. It’s a genuinely great performance, not just a physically transformative one. Unfortunately, it is rather a performance in search of a movie. The script is choppy and hokey at times. The movie doesn’t have a whole lot of flow, feeling more like a series of disconnected scenes and some of those scenes, like a ridiculously sappy sequence of Churchill riding the Underground, are nigh onto cringe inducing. Others, though, really work. There’s a scene of Churchill and his secretary sharing a quiet conversation at a dark moment that’s really gorgeous and a scene in which Churchill is confronted with his past failures is incredibly intense. Ben Mendelsohn, as the awkward, unsure King George VI, is really brilliant. It is, oddly enough, the relationship between his character and Oldman’s that is the most effective, despite all the time spent with Churchill’s wife and with his war cabinet. Their scenes together are the best in the film, particularly the final scene where you see how this awkward collaboration has miraculously flowered into a true partnership. The good bits lift the entire enterprise, but one wishes Oldman had a movie up to the standards of his performance. 3 stars.
tl;dr – Oldman’s performance is titanic and wonderful, but the film itself doesn’t add up to much on its own terms; some good scenes help make up for the bad ones. 3 stars.